Earlier this month, Columbus’ own “Eclectic Groove Oriented – Funky Jazz Trio” fo/mo/deep released its fourth album Syzygy – its first as a trio. Their current lineup of bandleader Ron Holmes (Electric & Upright Basses), Andre Scott (Drums) and Robert Mason (Piano, Organ, Keyboards) has crafted another collection of nuanced groove, and continues to entertain live audiences with their growing catalog of organic, earthy sounds. fo/mo/deep performs next at the “Smokin’ Notes” series at Pipes & Pleasures on October 29th at 7pm, followed by their return to Natalie’s on Friday, November 29th at 9:30pm – tickets going fast here. Keep reading for my thoughts on this exciting release from one of the area’s most electrifying bands.
Recorded and mixed by Joey Gurwin of Oranjudio Studios in July 2019, Syzygy showcases a vital unit at the top of its powers. Mason kicks the album off on piano for a sizzling lead, and beautiful outro, on the Curtis Mayfield classic “Move On Up,” and the rhythm section immediately positions themselves as the rock solid foundation of the album’s groove. Original tune “Bourbon Neat” rides Holmes’ bubbling bassline for a funky multiple-keyboard getdown, with Mason contributing his own soulful lines before some dynamite fills from Scott. The trio showcases their skill on encompassing a variety of material in their “eclectic groove” with a swaggering take on Vanessa Carlton’s pop hit “A Thousand Miles,” and Holmes’ bedrock bassline coupled with Scott’s drum prowess powers Mason’s emphatic leads and solo. Mason’s relaxed “Paradise” builds into a thunderous piano showcase with the ever-reliable support of Holmes and Scott. “Maple Street” by John Funkhouser and Adam Saylor starts with, and returns to, a mesmerizing keyboard workout by Mason, employs an extremely catchy chorus, and offers a solo exploration of the bass’ upper reaches by Holmes.
As the album approaches its second half, the band once again takes a look at some of its favorite material. Their take on Michael Jackson ballad “The Lady In My Life” begins life as a languorous and sensuous groover, with the rhythm section establishing a sturdy foundation, and deliberately ascends to high drama aided by Mason’s finesse on the keys. Next are two new looks at John Coltrane standards that the band recorded previously. “Giant Steps” has almost an aquatic feel from Mason’s bubbling keyboards, and the trio is locked in tight. “Naima” stretches out with a stately classic jazz feel, featuring exquisite solo touches from the ensemble before a thrilling climax and a sultry conclusion. Holmes’ “Ellsworth Ave” is an irresistible jam, as heavy bass, unstoppable snares, and melody and atmosphere from multiple keyboards combine for an instrumental tour de force. The trio once again wears its eclectic tastes on its sleeve with a take on 80’s Tears for Fears hit “Everybody Wants To Rule The World.” Holmes’ yearning bass line sets the right tone, and the band mixes memorable melody with its own undeniable groove for an impressive spin through unexpected material. Album finale “The Lover” sees the band tackling fellow funky jazz trio Medeski, Martin & Wood, and the hazy organ journey expertly reveals the ample power of both outfits.
Syzygy is a lovingly rendered collection recommended for all jazz fans, as their eclectic groove continues to hit a wide variety of spots on the mark. Visit the band’s website for more info, or buy or stream online at CD Baby, Apple Music, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, or Pandora. Check out “The Lover” via video: